Looted Orphanage Kids Wander in Baghdad.
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|Fri, 04-25-2003 - 10:28am|
>"Al-Rahma was not a great place for children even before the US-led war to oust the regime of Saddam Hussein. The children say they were regularly beaten. But Saied remembers the morning three weeks ago when it turned into a nightmare. â€œAfter the Americans came, an official from the Social Ministry came to the gate and told us to open everything. He took the television and the equipment and food and drove away in his car,â€ he said.
â€œThen the other people came. They broke everything. They set the pharmacy on fire. Many of the children were screaming and crying. They started to run away and we couldnâ€™t stop them,â€ he said. There had been 160 children at Al-Rahma. Now, about 30 have come back and several more have been found by the volunteers looking for them.
One of those who came back was Ahmed, a rough-looking 16-year-old abandoned by his parents when he was born and whose left leg was crippled in a car accident three years ago. Giving a tour of the building while walking with crutches, he says his leg was the only reason he did not make it as far as his friends. Now he goes with the UNICEF officials to try to convince others it is safe to return.
Dirty children wander around aimlessly. Piles of garbage and flies are everywhere. Mattresses are scattered on the floors. The stench from the fire lingers in the air. In hidden rooms, there is crying. Baghdadâ€™s chief officer for UNICEF, which has started to deliver food and supplies, Hatim George Hatim, recalled what happened at Al-Rahma. â€œSome were taken in by the neighbors, but many, many have run away. Nobody knows where they are. So the teachers at the school and others are going around looking for them,â€ he said."<